Sunday, March 23, 2008

Being #1 Carries Responsibilities 

Saturday in the Western Region of the NCAA Basketball playoffs, #7 West Virginia upset perennial NCAA basketball powerhouse #2 Duke University, . The victory for West Virginia came two days after Duke managed to squeak by #15 Belmont 71-70, the final Duke basket occurring with less than six seconds remaining on the clock. Everyone goes after Duke and many people, outside of Duke's enclave and alumni, root for the other team.

During my career at IBM we experienced similar reactions - for a non-IBM company to beat us in a bid, whether it be telecommunications, hardware, software, consulting, etc. people outside of IBM and without knowledge of the environment often rooted for the other company.

In the USA, world leadership - unrequested but thrust upon us, Americans often experience this knee-jerk reaction to go against the USA. If there is anyway to criticize us, it is done, internally and externally. We regularly print half-truths and teach our children that we are really a terrible nation.

Being #1 makes an entity a target - goes with the territory. In Duke's case, they will feel bad, analyze what went "wrong," identify the positive and come up with a new plan. They will be back with force next season. For IBM, we lost sometimes, we felt rotten, we analyzed what went "wrong," identified what worked and went after the next bid. In both environments, people adapted.

My concern for the USA is that far too many, including most of those on the left, only look for what goes "wrong" from their point of view. They spread their negativity anywhere they can. They refuse to look at what worked; they do not appreciate the efforts of those trying to protect us. They ignore the good - it doesn't exist in their world.

Did you ever notice, none of these critics want to leave. Most do not want to return to a home nation. Why? They don't answer - oh they always have some American to blame and imply that if "they are in charge" everything will be better but massive replacements of anything rarely produce success. Not one socialist system has worked, not one - but many have resulted in millions, tens of millions of deaths.

If Duke players and coaches spent their entire season each looking only at their mistakes, if IBMers only looked at sales failures, if Americans are told and taught only what the press doesn't like, if Americans refuse to teach and learn what we have done well, and if in any of these areas someone tried to instill an unwarranted guilt on the team, the salesmen, the nation, in every situation, the individual and group loses.

The US remains one of the most self-critical nations that has ever existed. Because of this freedom of expression, people feel they are free to take shots at us without any obligation to place things in context.

It is time to realize that though we have much, we have never been an imperialist nation. We fix our major problems. We have advanced the cause of freedom everywhere. My foreign students remind me every semester - they come here for freedom: religious, educational, job opportunity, etc.

Maybe it's time those who are so negative, for whatever reason, to try living somewhere else - six months would do it. Maybe then, they will realize what we have is a true gift; that what we have is what so many people desire and our constant self-critiquing is just wrong. We are a beacon - we must keep the light burning. We must be responsible to ourselves, our children and others.